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Baby’s Best Friend

Having a dog in the house improves infant health

By: Julie Klam

Last Updated:


A recent study conducted by Dr. Eija Bergroth found having pets
in the house during a baby’s first year of life can help bolster the
infant’s immune system and decrease the number of respiratory
infections and colds experienced. The study, conducted in Finland,
followed 397 babies through their first year of life.
For 44 weeks, the new moms recorded how often their babies had
fevers, ear infections, rhinitis, coughs, wheezing, and if they needed
antibiotics. The reports of those with a cat or dog in the house were
then compared to the reports of those without. Analysis found
babies from households with dogs were healthy for 72 – 76 percent
of the first year, whereas babies who had no contact with dogs
were healthy for only 65 percent of the year; having a dog made
the infant’s up to 11 percent healthier. Improved health was also experienced
by babies who kept company with cats, but with a lesser
margin of improvement.

The results are considered statistically significant. Bergroth and
her colleagues speculate that having dogs and cats around exposes
newborns to more pathogens and helps them build a more mature
immune system. This study is one of the first to find cats and dogs
have protective factors in infant health.—LE


Last Updated:

By: Julie Klam
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